Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Album Review: Dunsmuir - Dunsmuir

Sometimes it's hard to notice how much the world has shifted under your feet. It isn't until you can step back and see something from a totally new perspective that you understand that where you are now is not at all where you used to be. The world of music is like that. Not too long ago, a project like Dunsmuir would have been impossible to comprehend. Here we have established names like Neil Fallon of Clutch and Vinny Appice of every band under the sun, coming together with a few friends to make a concept album telling the stories of a shipwreck's survivors, that will be released only digitally and on vinyl. That sentence is bizarre to write, but it underscores that we are in a brave new world of music, where even meat and potatoes rock music is thinking outside the box.

The first track, "Hung On The Rocks", tells you everything you need to know about what Dunsmuir is going to offer up. The song comes out swinging with a groovy riff, Appice pounding his drums in his typical heavy style, and enough fuzzy swagger to fill the three minutes to the brim. It's short and sweet, which is exactly what makes it charming. There's no need to throw in extra fluff just because the album is conceptual. The band would rather hit hard and get out of the way.

Diversity isn't exactly the name of the game here. There is a slower, heavier riff in the middle eight of "Our Only Master", but the record spends most of its running time going straight ahead without looking back. It's a short record, so there isn't enough time for it to get old. The approach actually works, because the numbers that pack the most punch are the best ones here, namely songs like "The Bats (Are Hungry Tonight)". That song is short, snappy, and and has the ability to make an impact. "What Manner Of Bliss" is the opposite, with its slightly slower tempo feeling more like a drag than a change of pace. Dunsmuir was built to rock, and they're at their best when that's what they do.

I used the term 'meat and potatoes' earlier, and I think that's a fair description of what Dunsmuir is all about. It's by no means a criticism. There's a reason we like those things. They satisfy our needs, even if they don't happen to be the most stylish way of doing it. Sometimes we just want to hear some good ol' rock music done without the technical frills that don't really add anything to the songs. Dunsmuir delivers on that premise, as the album is a hefty dose of the effective basics of rock.

There are two criticisms I could bring up. For one thing, the riffing is just fuzzy enough that there aren't any riffs on the album that would make me want to pick up a guitar and ingrain it in my fingers. That's an important part of the equation for a rock band, and I would have appreciated a bit more in that department. The other thing is a judgment call, but I don't really hear any reason why this couldn't have been a Clutch album. With Neil's voice as the focus, there isn't much about Dunsmuir's sound to differentiate it from Clutch. In that respect, it feels a bit redundant.

But, that doesn't discount from the main point here. "Dunsmuir" is a solid rock album for fans that like the simple approach. Nothing about this album is flashy, but it gets the job done. It's like a Clutch album; you know what you're getting, and that's all that you're getting.

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